Josef was bored. Things were going well at work, well enough that they didn’t even really need him there. He had fed this morning off a pretty brunette, and she’d given him more than blood. So he was full, sated and bored. After some thought he decided to go see Mick.
Mick seemed surprised to see him, but didn’t say anything. To be fair, he only usually showed up if something had gone wrong, like with that murderer that Mick didn’t kill. But he and Mick were friends, had been for the better part of forty years, even if they had some radical differences of opinion.
They talked about various things for awhile, when Mick said something about that reporter he was so fond of. Josef was suddenly irritated. It was ridiculous, she was mortal, it would never work, as he knew from personal experience. He had put up with it for long enough.
“Mick, when are you going to dump her? I know you’ve made her into a pet, but it’ll never work, you know that!”
Mick frowned at him. “She’s not a ‘pet,’ Josef. We just work together.”
Josef snorted. “Like hell you do. Even if she didn’t have a boyfriend, you’re a vampire. You’d be better off with Coraline.”
“But Coraline’s not a vampire anymore, either,” he pointed out. “If she’s found a cure…” he trailed off.
Josef had had enough. “Jesus, Mick, when are you going to lose the martyr complex? You’ve been hating what you are for fifty years. Get over it already!”
Mick flinched, but Josef wasn’t finished. He’d put up with Mick’s guilt and self-pity long enough. “There is no cure for vampirism! You can’t go back. So stop mourning for something that died decades ago!”
All of a sudden something snapped in Josef. Mick hated what he was, and by extension he hated all vampires. That meant he hated Josef, and Josef would never be able to talk him round. His sanity momentarily deserted him, and jealousy and despair rose up in him, bitter and poisonous, feeding off each other and off his anger at Mick, and he launched himself at him.
Mick was too taken aback to resist as Josef pinned his wrists above his head and put his lips to Mick’s in something savage and brutal that was nothing like a kiss, biting hard enough to draw blood.
The moment he’d tasted Mick’s blood Josef drew back in horror, to see Mick staring up at him in shock. Before he could say anything, Josef was running, out of the apartment, down the stairs, out the door, with no thought in his mind except getting away.
Dammit, what’s wrong with me? I promised myself I’d never do anything and now…
Someone grabbed his arm, almost dislocating his shoulder and making him careen into a wall. He looked over. Somehow Mick had caught up with him. He collapsed to the ground, head buried in his arms.
He didn’t look up. “I’ll leave as soon as possible,” he said, his voice muffled. “I’ll go back to New York, or maybe Chicago. You’ll never see me again.” It was the only way. Mick would hate him now, he couldn’t live in LA as long as Mick was there.
Mick sounded genuinely confused, and Josef looked up in astonishment.
“Dammit, Mick, I can’t stay here! I’m out of control! You can’t tell me that you want me here after what just happened!”
“What did just happen?”
Josef flinched. Of course he wants an explanation. I can’t tell him why I did it. He’d never believe me. Even if he did, he’d hate me.
As he hesitated, Mick fixed him with a stern glance. “Well?”
Seeing he would have to say something, Josef decided to tell him everything. With his eyes fixed on the ground, he started talking, speaking in a monotone that gave nothing away.
“When I met you I was convinced Coraline had made a mistake. It had been more than ten years and you hadn’t adjusted. Most vamps start to accept it after that long. You weren’t going to make it. I was surprised you’d lasted as long as you had. If Coraline hadn’t been around I don’t know what you’d have done.”
He took a deep breath and continued. “You were weak. You had real potential, but you insisted on burdening yourself with a humanity you didn’t have anymore. You had scruples and morals. Vamps can’t afford those.” He stopped. So far he hadn’t said anything particularly damning. Mick knew all this already, but he hadn’t interrupted him yet. He seemed to be listening, although Josef couldn’t tell without looking at him. But now he had to tell him the rest of it.
“But as I knew you longer, my opinion started to change. You were still weak, still not living up to your potential, but I found things to…” he stopped, swallowed. “To admire about you, despite the morals.” Or maybe because of them, but damned if I tell him that. He’s already too wrapped up in right and wrong. But God knows I lost all my idealism centuries ago. He was staring at the ground, so he didn’t see Mick’s smile.
“But you were with Coraline, and after even after she died, you were wrapped up in her.” He expected Mick to protest that, but he didn’t. “I could put up with that, put up with the fact that you hated what you were. I could even put up with the fact that since you hated vampires that meant you hated me.”
Mick spoke for the first time. “Josef…”
Josef looked up at him for the first time, locking eyes with him as his fangs came out and he snarled. “Shut up!” Mick did.
He fixed his eyes on the floor again. “But then came that…that damned blonde reporter. Coraline I could understand, you were obsessed with her when you were a mortal, and she was your sire, it was only natural. But this reporter of yours…” He stared at Mick. “She’s a mortal. You know it can’t work!”
“You fell in love with a mortal!” Mick returned, immediately looking sorry he’d said it.
Josef winced at the mention of Sarah, then smiled, a smile without humor or humanity, a smile full of pain. “Yeah, well, I guess I’m doomed to desire the unattainable. First I fell in love with a mortal, then my best friend…dammit!” He hadn’t meant to say that, but Mick’s mentioning Sarah had thrown him off-balance...well, further off-balance.
Mick stared at him, his expression unreadable, then sat down on the curb next to him. Josef averted his gaze. “Josef, look at me.”
He shook his head. “So, now you know. I’ll leave now.”
That startled Josef enough that he looked at Mick. “Because…because you won’t want me here! You can’t want me here!”
“Don’t you want to hear my side?”
Josef blinked at him. “Your side?”
Mick nodded. “I was addicted to Coraline, you were right about that. But I didn’t love her. After she turned me, I hated her, in fact. But she was all I had. When I met you, I thought you were a pompous, amoral bastard.” Josef couldn’t help but smirk at that, despite the harshness of the words. But Mick wasn’t finished. “After a while, though, I started to admire you, despite the lack of morals.” That surprised him, and he noted the similarity in phrasing to what he had said. He wondered if Mick had done that deliberately.
Mick took a deep breath. “You’re intelligent, you have a sense of humor even if it is rather twisted, you’re wealthy, powerful, you’ve seen more history that I could ever dream of. And…” he paused. “You’re not afraid to take what you want.”
Josef stared at him, his mouth falling open despite all he could do. Then Mick leaned forward and kissed him. Josef stiffened, then relaxed. This was a real kiss, soft and undemanding. Normally he wouldn’t have allowed a kiss, not like this one, it was too intimate, but this was Mick, doing something he was still afraid to believe.
Mick pulled away first. Josef stared at him for a moment, then smiled. This smile was different that his usual bitter, ironic smirks. He hadn’t smiled like that since Sarah. Mick was obviously somewhat taken aback, but then he smiled himself, and said, “You see? I’ve got it as bad as you.”
“What about Beth?” He should have kept his mouth shut, but he had to know.
Mick shrugged, then sighed. “You were right, it couldn’t work.” He stood up. “Come on, let’s go home.”
Josef looked around for the first time. They must be miles from Mick’s apartment. Mick held out a hand to help him up. He took it, and got to his feet. Mick didn’t drop his hand immediately, but stood there looking at him. Something passed between them, then Mick dropped his hand and smiled, and they headed back.